Physical stores will end up as showrooms – just one of the outcomes predicted from the growth of online shopping.

But with around 90 percent of retail transactions still taking place in-store, it hasn’t come to pass. That’s not to say that the high street doesn’t face challenges, and to ensure the store retains its allure, many of the retailers we speak to are looking to better blend off-and on-line channels, creating consistent experiences that bring many of the digital and interactive services people enjoy virtually into their stores.

Electronic Shelf Labels (ESLs) can play a lead role in this. They can create connected, digital stores that enable retailers to make limitless price and promo adjustments, remotely. Not only that, they provide a touchpoint to interact with and serve today’s tech-savvy consumers in more interesting, personal, and profitable ways.

ESLs can enhance the customer experience from the moment a shopper walks through the door, beginning with addressing a familiar challenge: consistent, accurate pricing.

Price accuracy

Price governs most purchasing decisions; there’s nothing more frustrating for customers than reaching the checkout to find the discounted price on the shelf was wrong.

But ensuring price accuracy isn’t easy: with thousands of price labels and multiple promotions in most stores, keeping printed labels up to date and accurate is no small task. This is especially so for supermarkets, where as much as half of stock is on promotion at any given moment. Associates spend hours replacing and updating paper shelf labels – manually, week in, week out – and mistakes do occur. This is where ESLs come into their own.

Managed centrally, these digital shelf-edge displays allow retailers to easily control and change in-store pricing and promotions with speed, consistency, and accuracy. They can be updated in near real-time, across millions of labels in hundreds – even thousands, limitless – of stores, making it easier to price consistently across channels and avoid errors. This consistency helps retailers avoid price errors and the associated queues at customer service desks. But the benefits extend much further, offering the chance to show information beyond price.

Accessible information

Consumers are increasingly researching products before they buy, whether at home or in-store. They want to know everything from country of origin, nutritional data, product reviews – and beyond. A third of shoppers in the US, UK, and Germany already use their smartphones in-store to read reviews written by other customers .

And they’re anticipating ready access to even more in the future: by 2020, 62 percent of in-store shoppers expect product information (even current stock levels) to be available without speaking to an associate .

ESLs can display this and any other data, providing a convenient, graphical information source. Retailers who want to demonstrate that they provide better value than the competition can even show competitors’ prices alongside their own. Showing that there’s not a better offer elsewhere can persuade shoppers to buy there and then, reducing showrooming.

While the accuracy and variety of information on ESLs brings advantages, the most important benefit to the Customer Experience comes from every retailer’s biggest asset – their associates.

Improved service

Even in the connected, digital store, attentive associates will still be the clincher for excellent shopping experiences. If they spend their shifts replacing price labels, stickering discounts, and updating promotions, that’s less time making sure customers are happy. And if that’s how associates spend the bulk of their time, there’s a good chance they won’t be happy either.

By removing the need to manually update labels, ESLs can free associates to do what they do best: serve customers. Even if they don’t know the answer to a question, barcodes and QR codes displayed on ESLs can be used to access to the information they need using a mobile device. And without tedious re-labelling on the horizon, associates will likely bring more positive energy to their customer interactions – a win-win for Customer Experience.

A digital – and personal – future

The always-on, connected nature of ESLs creates a communications platform for stores. Aside from enabling retailers to change prices with unprecedented speed and agility, hunting for products could be a thing of the past, as shoppers are directed to the right spot by using ESLs with integrated Bluetooth Low Energy beacons and the retailers app on their smartphone. Augmented Reality capabilities will provide immersive experiences that make pinpointing items even easier – and more engaging. And when they reach the item, customers will receive personalised mobile incentives based on the insights offered by Big Data. Past purchases, search histories, likes and comments on social media and more can be used to create rewarding, compelling, and profitable offers.

All of these benefits will elevate the Customer Experience, as retailers continue to blend physical and digital retail; whether it’s more accurate pricing, clearer information, attentive associates, or more precisely targeted rewards. And each will help to engage today’s tech-savvy consumers, who increasingly expect more attentive and personal shopping experiences.

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